Frist Discusses ‘Moral Obligation’ to Fund AIDS Treatment on NPR
Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), one of several Republicans in Congress dedicated to "increased assistance" for funding AIDS treatment programs in developing nations, yesterday described AIDS as "a huge pandemic, a global health, humanitarian, economic and political problem that we must address today" on NPR's "Morning Edition." Frist said, "I believe we have a truly moral obligation to be able to do everything possible to have these drugs travel to these countries at as low a price as possible. It is absolutely critical, in whatever we do, in how we approach it, that we preserve the research and development, the innovation potential because we don't yet have a cure for HIV/AIDS." Although the United States has tripled its spending to international AIDS programs since 1999, Frist said that he is "pushing hard" to increase financial support "much, much further," given estimates that $3 billion is needed annually for "appropriate prevention and care programs in Africa," significantly more than the $500 million that is currently being spent each year. However, that cost does not include the price of medications. Although Frist prioritized working through trade agreements to provide drugs at lower prices, he also stressed protecting patent rights, "because if they're not protected, we will never see the appropriate research and development for that ultimate cure." When asked why Congress is focusing on sending money to Africa when there are unmet health care needs within the United States, Frist responded that "the impact of HIV/AIDS in [South Africa] alone will lower its gross domestic product by 17%, costing that fragile economy, an incipient democracy, ... $22 billion. From a moral standpoint, we're going to have 13 million children already having been orphaned; that number is going to increase to 40 million by the year 2010." Frist added that there will be "increasing support by the United States Congress, by constituents across the country and by this administration in addressing this HIV/AIDS challenge" (Edwards, "Morning Edition," NPR, 3/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.